Tuesday, 17 July 1973
Dáil Eireann Debate
Mr. Corish: Because of the nature of the therapy needed for the treatment of alcoholism and particularly because alcoholic patients tend to have psychological difficulties, their care will continue to be based on the psychiatric services. This does not mean that the services will be provided only at mental hospitals. Treatment is now available at psychiatric units attached to general hospitals and in other special facilities detached from mental hospitals. My Department is examining the manner in which these services might be  extended and I have asked the health boards for their views on the needs of their own areas.
I might add that my Department is giving special importance to the development of measures in relation to the community aspects of alcoholism and in this connection health boards have been authorised to appoint social workers with duties specifically in that field.
Mr. Davern: Arising out of the Minister's reply, would the Minister consider having alcoholics and their families considered as entitled to medical cards because of the nature of the illness and its social implications?
Mr. J. Lynch: Is the Minister aware that Deputy Coughlan, his Labour Party colleague, is reported as having said that the admission of alcoholics to psychiatric units for treatment casts a slur on and is a social embarrassment to the families of alcoholics? Does the Minister agree with that statement? Does he realise that it has been a great source of pain to genuine psychiatric patients and members of their families and will he disassociate himself from these remarks?
Mr. J. Lynch: It has been brought to my notice. Would the Minister agree that the admission of alcoholic patients to psychiatric units is a source of embarrassment to these patients and their families?
Dr. O'Connell: Would the Minister not agree that, despite what we may have done in this field, there is still a stigma attached to psychiatric illness and that it will take a lot more effort to eliminate it?
Mr. Corish: It is impossible to estimate the number of days lost to industry due to alcoholism, as absence from work due to illness is rarely attributed on medical certificates to alcoholism or excessive drinking.
Mr. Corish: A sum of £150,000 has been approved for health information and education services in the current financial year. Approximately £150,000 of this amount will be spent in an  attempt to publicise the dangers of alcoholism.
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